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Long time mathematics professor remembered

By Costa Maragos Posted: December 11, 2016 8:00 a.m.

Dr. Haragauri Gupta shown in his office at the U of R. Says his daughter Neena Gupta; “This was his home and the University put up with his eccentricities, as well such as his inordinately messy office.”
Dr. Haragauri Gupta shown in his office at the U of R. Says his daughter Neena Gupta; “This was his home and the University put up with his eccentricities, as well such as his inordinately messy office.” Photo courtesy of Neena Gupta

The next time you are wandering the hallways of College West, you might feel the presence of the late Dr. Haragauri Gupta, whose association with the University of Regina spanned more than four decades.

Gupta was a long-time professor in the mathematics department and achieved professor emeritus status.

Those who knew him, fondly remember his office at College West. All who visited him – whether friends, associates or acquaintances – felt welcomed and comfortable in his office space.

“My father loved the University of Regina,” says Gupta’s daughter Neena Gupta. “If you believe in ghosts I think my dad would be a very benign ghost and this is the building, College West, which he would haunt. He would be helping struggling math students or poking a prof. that hasn’t handed in grades yet. This was where he got to flourish professionally and he was very lucky to find that.”

Gupta grew up in the foothills of the Eastern Himalayas in Cooch Behar, West Bengal, India. He was a brilliant student. He completed his master’s degree in pure mathematics at the University of Calcutta, winning that university’s gold medal for his brilliant performance. He completed a second master’s in statistics in 1949.

Dr. Gupta
Family, friends and associates packed the Faculty Club recently to remember Dr. Gupta. Photo: External Relations

He left India to study abroad, first in West Germany, and then at the University of California on a Fulbright Scholarship where he did his doctorate under the legendary logician, Alfred Tarski.
 
He joined the U of R campus in 1966 as a professor of mathematics.

“The University gave him the freedom to do what he wanted to do academically. So this was his academic home and the University put up with his eccentricities, as well such as his inordinately messy office,” says Neena.

Gupta had a legendary ability to remember names.

“He would meet a student on the street two or three years later and he would say ‘oh you’re so and so. You took math 200 and you got a great grade,’ ” says Neena.   

Gupta taught from 1966 until his retirement in 2003. He continued to teach classes at the University for about another 10 years. In his later years, he moved to Ontario to be closer to Neena and her family.

However, when it came time to celebrate his life recently, the obvious place to hold the event was the Faculty Club located in the College West Building.  

Among the speakers was one of Gupta’s former students,  Dr. Douglas Farenick, acting dean of Science and former head of the U of R’s Mathematics and Statistics Department. Gupta’s academic eulogy was delivered by Dr. James T. Smith, Gupta’s PhD student, who graduated from the University of Regina in 1970.

“I wanted to find a place where all of my dad’s communities would feel welcome. The Indian community, his faith community, his academic community and I felt the faculty club would be the place for that,” she says. “My dad was a great scholar. A lot of his scholarship was done here at the University of Regina and this is where he would want to celebrate his life. After 91 years this is not a sad occasion, but rather cause to celebrate a blessed life.”

“I had a former student email me after my dad passed away and he wrote that ‘your dad was an exceptional teacher.’ He said it is easy to be an exceptional teacher with good students, but he was a very good for those who were struggling as well. And that’s a great compliment,” she says.

Dr. Gupta passed away in the early fall.

He requested that in lieu of flowers donations be made in his name to the University of Regina.